Black beer, smoke beer and barley-free beer: Three unusual brews to try this month

Broaden your horizons with these interesting options from Germany, Dublin and Galway

Try a beer less ordinary this month. Picture: Getty

The Irish market has an incredible selection of alcohol free drinks at the moment and I’d encourage you to seek them out, no matter how wet or dry your January is. But if you’d like to try some new beers that aren’t alcohol-free, here are some interesting ones for you to experiment with.

Try this black beer alongside a pilsner or stout to see the differences between them Photo by FOOD AND WINE

Hopburgh ‘Schwarzbier’, ABV 5.2 per cent, €4.35 from

Schwarzbier, or black beer, is a German style of lager brewed with roasted malts. These malts give the beer its dark colour and dry finish, but the style remains distinctly different from a stout. Expect low hop and malt bitterness here, but plenty of dark chocolate and coffee notes, followed by that nice dry crisp finish. Try it alongside a pilsner and a stout to see the differences between them.

This barley-free beer is made by Whiplash, the Dublin brewery Photo by FOOD AND WINE

Whiplash & Wylam ‘Word With Yourself’, ABV 6.3 per cent, €5.75 from

Moving from a style that’s all about barley to one that contains none at all, this beer is produced entirely from alternative grains, wheat and oats in this case. Beer without barley can be seen as a strange concept, with most people considering it a fundamental ingredient alongside water, hops and yeast. It was only in the late 2000’s that America reclassified its definition of beer to remove barley as an essential ingredient. Try this one alongside a Belgian IPA to appreciate the difference the barley can make.

This style of German beer can be divisive, but Galway Bay has done a great job of managing the flavours in this one Photo by FOOD AND WINE

Galway Bay ‘Märzen To The Fire’, ABV 5.5 per cent, €4.30 from

Rauchbier is another German style of beer, this time translating to ‘smoke beer’. Pilsner, Munich and Caramunich malts are smoked with beechwood during the drying phase to give this lager a distinctive roasted flavour. These can be divisive styles of beer, but Galway Bay has done a great job balancing the flavours here. Try this one with someone else - many people won’t like it, but it will makes for good conversation.